Current conditions on the Bridger-Teton National Forest
by Bridger-Teton National Forest
June 6, 2011
Record snowpack in Wyoming combined with above average precipitation this spring is causing landslides and road damage in the Jackson area as snow begins to melt and soils become saturated.
With warmer temperatures forecasted over the weekend and into next week, water levels in creeks and rivers are expected to rise considerably.
The largest landslide is located in the Snake River Canyon which temporarily closed Highway 26/89 between Alpine and Hoback Junction. The Highway is now open both directions however travelers can expect short delays and reduced speeds in the landslide area. Multiple smaller landslides have occurred in the Granite Creek drainage and the Greys River road. Road damage is also being observed behind road gates, such as in the Mosquito Creek drainage. The Big Piney and Pinedale Ranger District are beginning to report road damage as well.
Unprecedented snow depths persist in the mountains. The snow water equivalent in the snowpack around Jackson Hole is currently 311% of average according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, considerably higher than at the same time in 1997 which was the last time Jackson Hole experience large floods. The Bridger-Teton National Forecast Avalanche Center re-opened in response to the potential for large avalanches to occur and is issuing a daily avalanche hazard bulletins for the Teton Area.
Flooding is likely to occur as the mountain snowpack melts. Road damage, snow and potential flooding have made some Forest roads impassable and will delay the opening of some campgrounds and recreation facilities. The expected high water will also affect recreation activities that occur on or near water, notably boating, trail use that involves creek crossings, and camping near streams and rivers. Water levels are expected to peak in mid-to late June.
The Forest Service has formed a Type 3 Incident Command team and is working with County emergency teams and WYDOT in a coordinated response to ensure public safety and implement an assessment and prioritization process to respond to road damage.
1. Public safety is our greatest concern. Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Some floods develop slowly but flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes. Search and rescue along with other emergency responders will be stretched thin so preventing the need for rescue is paramount.
2. Conditions are changing rapidly. Prior planning and preparation is critical to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to the National Forest. Visitors are strongly advised to check current conditions before arriving for a visit.
3. Information is available and will be updated regularly. Check the websites listed below or contact the Forest Service at (307) 739-5500
4. Recreation opportunities are available on the National Forest. Information on some of these opportunities is listed below.
Closures: A temporary closure remains in effect for many Forest roads in the Jackson area. Closed roads include Granite Creek, North Fork Fall Creek, Mosquito Creek, Dog Creek, upper Curtis Canyon, Flat Creek, Crystal Creek, Ditch Road and the Shadow Mountain roads. The upper Gros Ventre road remains closed above the Slate Creek gate due to road damage at Devils Dip.
Road Conditions: Most Forest roads in the Jackson, Buffalo and Greys River area remain closed due to lingering snow and/or landslides. Open roads include the lower Gros Ventre road, Fall Creek road, lower Curtis Canyon, and Spread Creek road. The Fall Creek road is at risk for flooding, thus could experience closures. In addition, there is a 12 ton load limit on the Fall Creek road bridge. The Greys River road is open, but visitors should expect to encounter road damage above the forks. Repairing the Granite Creek road is currently the priority for the road crew. Road crews hope to open the road by Saturday June 11th, assuming additional problems donít emerge. Forest visitors are reminded to comply with closure signs to prevent damage to road surfaces and ensure safety. Donít risk getting stuck in a remote area. Closed roads are open to non-motorized uses.
River Conditions: The Snake River waterway is not closed. With warmer temperatures predicted this week, water levels are expected to rise rapidly. High water levels, fast currents and floating debris such as large trees, are safety concerns for those looking to recreate on or near the river. Rivers change their channels constantly in high flows and log jams, landslides, or other natural occurrences can take what once was a familiar rapid and surprise even the most experienced boaters. Boaters are strongly advised to thoroughly check conditions before getting on the river, build in an extra margin of safety, wear approved life jackets, be prepared for self-rescue, and go with BTNF permitted outfitters. Due to the large Double Draw landslide, the river current is now eroding the base of the downstream Blue Trails Slide area. Because of the potential for the erosion to trigger another landslide, WYDOT is currently conducting an emergency stabilization project. Machinery is working on the bank of the river and boaters need to stay river left in this area.
Campgrounds: Campgrounds open now include Altherton, Curtis, East Table, Station Creek, Little Cottonwood, Wolf Creek, Kozy, Hatchet, and Turpin. A delayed opening is expected for Granite Creek campground and Hot Springs due to lingering snow and road damage. Delayed openings are expected for Hoback, Red Hills and Crystal Creek campgrounds due to high water. Campers in the Snake River Canyon are advised that continuing work in the landslide area will create noise. Near Palisades Reservoir, the Alpine campground is open. Other campgrounds on the Buffalo and Greys River districts are still under snow. Campers are reminded that fast-moving, cold water can be dangerous. Be safe by keeping yourself, children and pets away from streams and rivers. Dispersed campers are advised to not camp immediately adjacent to rivers.
Trail Conditions: Most Forest trails remain under snow. A few trails in the Jackson area are open in the Greater Snow King area and Munger Mountain area. The lower portions of some trails in the Snake River Range are also beginning to open. Snow levels are generally at 7,500 feet. Creeks are expected to rise rapidly with warming temperatures this week making creek crossings hazardous. Winter killed elk and deer carcasses are being reported, so trail users need to be alert for the possibility of predators in the vicinity of carcasses and ensure dogs are under control and well within sight.
More Information: Please visit http://www.inciweb.org for more information and related links. Pinedale Ranger District: 37-367-4326. Big Piney Ranger District: 367-276-3375.